Ex-Powys teacher writes new career chapter as author, aged 71
SHE has already spent a career helping children learn to read and write, as well as training fellow teachers. But now, in his 70s, Jan Baynham is embarking on a whole new career – as an author.
Some great names in literature started late in life. The first novels by Toni Morrison, Mark Twain and JRR Tolkien arrived when they were 40, 41 and 45 respectively.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book, Little House on the Prairie, was written when she was 65. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was released at the age of 66. Jan, from Llandrindod Wells, was a 71-year-old first author.
Now 74, Jan’s third novel, ‘Her Nanny’s Secret’, was released this week, following ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ and ‘Her Sister’s Secret’, both published last year.
The third of her dual-narrative novels explores how decisions and actions made by family members in one generation impact the lives of the next. Her first three novels examine the bond between mothers and daughters, with “Her Nanny’s Secret” published on September 6. It is available in a variety of formats and locations and can even be ordered locally, from Verzon Books & Gallery on Middleton Street in Llandrindod. .
Jan, who began her teaching career at Builth Wells High School, admitted she ‘tried a bit’ after retiring in 2008, but the spark came when she joined a literary group at her library local, in Cardiff, in 2012.
“I started when maybe I should have focused on finishing a career,” joked Jan, who was born in Newbridge-on-Wye, before moving to Llandrindod aged 14 year. Later she married and moved and lived in Cardiff. suburb of Radyr since 1979.
“I spent my career teaching children to write and training teachers in the techniques, but I had never written fiction myself. I had done some non-fiction writing, like teaching textbooks, but then I found a writing group at Whitchurch Library and was hooked right away.
“I took a course in short stories and then a course in novels and that was it. It was kind of a fast track because I had a lot of catching up to do as a late starter.
“I took a few other different courses and then I started submitting work and was lucky enough to get hired by Ruby Fiction.
“I found it very rewarding and it just shows that you can do things later in life. It is very different from teaching; there was such camaraderie with the teaching, but I found there was a different kind of camaraderie between the writers.
Fascinated by family secrets and “skeletons lurking in cupboards”, Jan’s dual-narrative novels also explore forbidden love, while the setting plays a huge role, particularly her native Wales, with a new project taking place both in Presteigne and in Italy.
His next books will involve secrets and sibling relationships; the first is set in 1945 and 1964 and takes the reader back to Sicily where two sisters work together to prove their father’s innocence of wrongdoing.
As part of his extensive research, Jan visited a chapel in Henllan, Ceredigion, this summer, while also traveling to Sicily with his daughter to explore the setting of the second half of the story.
Jan’s initial deal was for three books, with “Her Nanny’s Secret” the final installment. Now firmly established and thriving as a writer, she plans to submit her fourth novel in the near future. As for what the next chapter has in store for him? It remains to be written.
To learn more about Jan, contact her via Twitter @JanBaynham or visit her Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.